Holy Spirit

Christmas, Easter AND PENTECOST!


We all know Christmas and Easter. One marks Christ birth, the other marks his resurrection. A lot of celebration and festivities accompanies each of these feasts. That is a good thing. These are huge events. Through the incarnation, i.e., Christmas, a savior who is God himself is born to us. God becomes fully human. Jesus, the son, remains fully divine but makes himself reliant upon the Holy Spirit to keep him in union with his Father. There is a great mystery in that. Why would God do this? Why would he establish this relationship between himself and the Spirit? 

In Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the death of, well, death.  Jesus takes the sin of the world to the cross, he offers himself as an atoning sacrifice, and he dies. That is good Friday. If the story ended there, it would be tragic. If God had died, and that was the end of the story, it would be a pretty terrible story. Thankfully, Easter happened. Jesus rose from the dead. That takes a tragic story and makes it amazing. To top it off,  forty days later Jesus ascended to heaven. It is a fantastic tale and an awesome reality. The problem is a lot of people, both in the Church and out of it, act like it is the whole story. It is not. 

Yes, God came. He lived as a human. He died for our sin. He conquered death, rose to new life and went back to heaven on a cloud. Incredible! But, once he ascends to heaven, aren't we basically in the same situation we were in before he came? I know Christ died for our sin. I know he rose so that we might have new life. But, if the story is over at the Ascension, we have no way to live in that new life. 

Christmas and Easter are reality changing, but they are not enough.  They are only part of the story. Big parts? Yes. Huge parts! But alone, the story is incomplete. God did not come to save us, and then leave us. His plan was something much greater. Jesus says as much in John's Gospel. In chapter sixteen, at the last supper, Jesus teaches the disciples that something new is going to happen. Another person is coming. This person is so crucial that Jesus tells the Apostles that it is better for him to leave so this new person can come. Those are not my words. They are Jesus' words. Here is the quote from John 16:7

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you...

Did you catch that?  Try to wrap your head around it.  Christmas is a big deal. Easter is a big deal. Jesus is saying that the coming of this next person is a big deal too.  Big enough that Jesus tells the Apostles he needs to go so that the Advocate can come. Right before Jesus ascension, Jesus talks again about this. 

“He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Before he returns to heaven Jesus tells the Apostles, "you are not done yet. Go wait for the Holy Spirit." So, they went back to Jerusalem and, waited.  When the time came to celebrate the Pentecost, the Jewish feast celebrating the giving of the law, something unexpected happened, 

Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The Advocate had arrived. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit had come. Just like Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ, Pentecost marks the coming of the Spirit. In Christmas, we celebrate that God has come for us. In Pentecost, we rejoice that God has come to dwell within us.  Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the three great feasts of the Church. Without the last of these, we would still be distant from the Lord. Through the coming of the Spirit we are made members of Christ's family, and in the Spirit we are enabled to "cry out, "Abba! Father."" Don't miss it. Pentecost is important. We need to celebrate the great thing that God has done for us. 

Originally published at AscensionPress.com

I will place my law within them (Jeremiah 31:33/Acts 2)


Did you know the feast of Pentecost predates the coming of the Holy Spirit?  It’s true. The disciples were gathered to celebrate a Jewish feast. In the Old Covenant, God had established this celebration as a remembrance of the giving of the law to Moses, and it was celebrated every year, seventy days after the Passover. It is interesting that God chose this day to pour the Holy Spirit into humanity. Think about it. Out of the three hundred sixty-five days the Lord could have selected, God decided to come on this particular feast. Could it be a coincidence? I do not think so. 

Perhaps the Lord’s word’s, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, can shed some light.

See, days are coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master… But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days… I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)

Did you catch that last part? God promises a new covenant. It will not be a covenant like the one he established with Moses. In the Old Covenant, the Lord gave the law from the outside. In this New Covenant, he promises to place his law on the hearts of his people.  How would he do that? In Acts, chapter two, it becomes clear. The Spirit comes to dwell in the hearts of the believers.  In this light, it makes perfect sense that God would choose to come on Pentecost.  Just as the Passover prefigures Jesus paschal sacrifice, Pentecost and the giving of the law prefigures the coming of the Holy Spirit.  

When we understand this relationship between the giving of the Law and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we gain insight into the relationship we, the followers of Christ, are supposed to have with the Holy Spirit. In this light we can reflect on Jesus words in John 14:26, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”  The Spirit comes to guide us and to teach us. He comes to establish God’s law within us. How are we to know this law? From the outside? No. We are supposed to come to know the Lord through the Spirit so that his will is clear to us at all times because it is written on our hearts.

When the Holy Spirit burst into creation, he came so that every believer could know and live in the will of the Lord. Jeremiah’s prophesy continues to emphasize this “They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the LORD!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me…” That is the relationship God desires with his people.

It is possible that a person might be tempted to think, "well, why do we need the teachings of the Church if we already have the law written on our hearts?"  Because God is a good Father. Yes, He established his Spirit in us to teach and to guide us, but like a good Father, He created safeguards in this relationship. Yes, we should not need the law, because our relationship with the Lord should be so intimate that we know the law. God, however, knows how easily we are led astray. He knows that there is an evil one actively seeking to mislead us. So, not only does the Lord speak the truth to our hearts, he also speaks to us through the Church he established as well. The Church is always there, publicly proclaiming the truth so that we are safe to follow the prompting of the Spirit in that truth. In those times when we are tempted to stray after our egos, or into the lies of the evil one, the Church proclaims the truth with authority.  

The Spirit’s coming on Pentecost was no accident. It was not a cosmic coincidence. No, God was teaching us something. He was declaring something. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord promised to write the Law on the hearts of his people. In Pentecost he accomplished it. 

Originally published at AscensionPress.com